The postman cometh at downtown Franklin’s historic post office, but perhaps not for much longer.
After servicing the historic post office in downtown Franklin for the past five years, Tom Otte is hoping to pass the baton off to a new business before his contract expires at the end of February.
Otte and Barbara Izzo, the owners of Cool Springs printing and mailing company American Mail Insert Inc., took over the location in 2014.
Built in 1925, the United States Postal Service sold the building to the city of Franklin in the 1990s, and it has been privately operated since 1991.
In 2013, FirstBank, which occupies a majority of the space in the building, signed a 20-year lease with the city.
Aided by the Heritage Foundation, which used to be located in the basement of the building, local preservationists Julian Bibb and Gordon Inman, director emeritus of FirstBank, oversaw renovations. In 2015, those renovations won a community preservation award.
Otte, a Franklin resident since 1995, said he and Izzo read about the post office being up for sale in 2014 in the Herald.
“We always try to expand business, and we know printing and mailing,” he said.
AMI, along with 11 others, put in a bid for the contract through the USPS.
“I didn’t hear anything for months, and it shut down in the meantime,” Otte said.
During the time it was shut down, a mailman from the Oak Meadow branch in Franklin brought by packages each day.
When AMI won the contract, they took over and began paying rent to FirstBank. As a private contractor, all their instructions came from the USPS.
Otte said there are around 2,500 Contract Postal Units, or CPUs, in the United States. To his knowledge, Franklin is Tennessee’s only standalone CPU that isn’t inside a market or storefront. It has been privately operated since 1991.
“It’s cheaper and better for the post office to have private businesses run it than for them to do it themselves,” he said.
At the age of 70, Otte is simply ready to retire, though he wants to help the next contractor in any way he can. He has already heard from a few people expressing interest in ownership.
“They could keep it running, but they need a new me,” he said.
Otte said FirstBank’s contract with the city stipulates they must keep the post office open.
FirstBank released their own big news on Tuesday evening: the acquisition of Franklin Synergy Bank, valued at $611 million, the largest regional bank deal in recent history.